Wednesday, May 18, 2016

So. Many. Decisions. (We went with Purse, Snail, Radio.)

The end is coming into hazy view on the horizon . . . of phase one, anyway. Phase one of at least three (but probably more like thirty-seven) phases of the fixer-upping of Gramblewood. Our contractor says he'll be done with the kitchen and the upstairs in about two weeks. I need to finish all the painting upstairs. And we need some furniture. I'm hoping that once school is done for the year at the end of this week, I can really focus on that stuff. And THEN, we can move upstairs, and unpack all the boxes in the garage that we packed up last June (unless I "accidentally" set them all on fire to avoid that), and we can start cooking IN our HOUSE. Crazy. But true.

I'm thinking we'll be up there in a month. Or by the end of June anyway. We shall see.

I knew going into this that a big issue a lot of people have with remodeling a house is decision-fatigue. How it feels so exciting to be choosing things at the beginning of the process, but that by the end you're just throwing darts at an old Ballard Designs catalog that came in the mail to the previous owner because you have no more cares to give.

Maybe I'll get there, we have a long way to go. But so far, I'm still having fun with it. And in a lot of ways, I feel like I'm only now rounding into mid-season form. I'm getting better at this. I'm actually feeling grateful that I wasn't more organized about my design choices before we moved in, because now that we've had some time to live in the house, I'm definitely making different choices.

Some modernizing is going to be necessary in a house built in 1920 that still had a few push button light switches around, but the longer I'm in the house, the more I appreciate the craftsmanship that went into all this old stuff, despite its current shabbiness. I had to watch Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries and Gran Hotel again on Netflix. For important historical research. And now maybe Poirot? If I'm method designing, I need to stay in character.

I've been able to find light fixtures and doors and doorknobs at local architectural salvage places and on eBay, to go along with the quirkier Etsy/Ikea/Anthropologie stuff I had chosen before we moved in.

All these lights were made before 1920. The flush mounts are really different from the recessed can-lights we've had in every house ever. But I really love how they look. (Don't mind the smoke alarm + shower cap.)

It took over a week for them to repair and sand down all the wood floors upstairs, and I kind of loved it. The whole house was filled with a fresh pine scent, thrumming with white noise, and vibrating like a magic fingers coin-operated bed. Frankie, who almost never naps anymore, was powerless against sleep. It was awesome.

Then we had to choose a finish.

We have two different kinds of wood upstairs: oak on the stairs and in the boys' and girls' rooms, and douglas fir in the master bedroom and office. My Instagram peeps will, I'm sure, be excited to learn that we went with "purse" (upper right) on the douglas fir in the grownup suite.

and "snail" (bottom right) for the kid areas, figuring that it would show less dust, on the off chance that the kids don't dust that often.

The floor in the boys' closet and bathroom currently looks like this:

which I love, but I have much, much grander plans for it. So far, those plans have involved me and a bunch of linoleum and a hooked razor blade and a hairdryer and a couple old WWI Marine Corps recruiting posters and much gnashing of teeth and cursing of said linoleum (but never the Marine Corps) and the eventual offloading of the project into the hands of a professional. So we'll see how it turns out. Hopefully in the next few days.

In the kitchen, the cabinets are all in, and the counter tops are in, and the new old doors are in, and the windows have been replaced. We had about twenty layers of paint stripped off of the amazing solid-wood doors in there. I can't believe anyone ever painted them!

My only contribution to the kitchen so far was turning this:

Into this:

with some awesome period reproduction wallpaper from Michael Uhlenkott.

That's the back of the glass cabinets (that don't yet have the glass in them, or shelves), the wallpaper is also on the inside of the solid cabinet doors, and might end up inside some drawers, too.

The glass in there will be the original wavy glass from the butler's pantry, and we're also going to reuse all the hardware that was in the kitchen when we moved in, as is. It seems to be from a few different eras, but I like the idea of some part of the old kitchen living on in the new one.

The kitchen is almost all white. White cabinets, white counter tops, it's going to have a white subway tile backsplash. But the floor . . . the floor is NOT white.

Many of my five hundred and forty-three and counting remodel-related decisions have been shared (and voted upon) on Instagram. Including what the pattern of the linoleum floor tiles was going to be.

We went with . . .  radio (bottom). For me it has a symmetry that the regular pattern on the right doesn't have. That one ends up feeling slant-y to me. The random pattern on the right was my original vision for the floor, but I ended up preferring a more traditional feel in pattern, with such a very nontraditional color palette.

I love this floor. I understand if you don't. We can still be friends. But it makes me smile. And the kids think it's awesome. I think it's evocative of the traditional 1920s black and white checkerboard kitchen floor, but with an unexpected twist.

Appliances and plumbing and shelves and knobs all happen this week. Yay!

I can't wait to see how it all turns out.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Don't We Have This Modesty Thing Backwards?

I tend to get mailbag questions in bunches. All of a sudden, I'll get a flurry of questions on similar topics. Maybe it's facebook? Maybe it's some sort of hive mind phenomena? But there you have it. It's a thing.

The most recent wave was on kids and modesty. And the questions got me wondering myself . . .

The two angles of most questions seem to be . . .
"How do you handle different-gender siblings with regards to modesty etc.?

My son and daughter are almost four years apart, but they both still feel very young to me. They love taking a bath together, and I never think twice about changing them around each other etc. But, my husband thinks my son might be getting too old for that... I've also wondered about possibly having them share a room some time in the future and whether or not that would be "awkward."

I know your kids don't have that big of a gap between them, but they certainly span that distance.... How do you handle stuff like that? Is it just a non-issue or do you have firm family "rules" or "boundaries"? 

I'd love to hear your take."
 and . . .
"At what age do you start being concerned about the length of dresses/skirts/shorts of your daughters?
This is new territory for me. When I think of dressing modestly my 1st thought as a bigger busted gal is to not show cleavage. I'm short, worrying about revealing leg usually isn't an issue. But then I married a guy that's 6'3" & my daughter has inherited his genes in the height department. My daughter just turned 3. I hadn't really thought about it until today my husband mentioned our daughter's dress seemed short. I know that as you said in a podcast you're just a person on the internet that has opinions on things...but I usually like your opinions & would appreciate your thoughts on the matter. Thanks."
So, of course, I have thoughts and we have family policies related to both issues. But as I started to respond, what kept coming to mind was how crazy and so very sad it is that this is where we've come to as a society. That as good, concerned parents, we have THIS kind of stuff to worry about when our kids are two and three and four.

Concerns like this (and we all have them) are, empirically speaking, complete nonsense. 

Modesty is a concept tied to sexuality. Since little kids are not sexual, they also shouldn't have to be modest. Look at old movies from the forties and fifties, little girls are wearing dresses that barely cover their frilly unders . . . at a nativity play!

The kids and I recently read a book called Caddie Woodlawn, set in 1864, in which eleven year-old Caddie and her two-years-older and -younger brothers have to cross a river, so they all take their clothes off, bundle them up on their heads and wade across. No biggie.

But, because of pornography and the hypersexualization of the society we live in, we grownups worry that everything is sexual. Even little kids. And even if WE know they aren't, we run the risk of scandalizing our friends and neighbors who think that worrying about modesty with four year olds is protecting them, when really it's just burdening them with stuff that totally doesn't apply.

From what I can tell based on my mom's collection of vintage patterns, people used to understand that little girls could run around in little dresses, and young ladies should dress like, well, young ladies.

And it's not just a twentieth century thing! Check out this excellent and informative Victorian age-appropriate skirt-length chart from Harper's Bazaar found by Claire in the comments . . .

So, fashions change, but clearly, skirts have traditionally gone from short to long as girls become women.

These days, however, there are plenty of sweet knee-length and tea-length dresses for little girls, but heaven help you if you're trying to find something that will reach longer than mid thigh for your twelve year old who is already too tall for anything in the girls' section. #askmehowiknow

It's just all backwards!

We should be emphasizing modesty and beauty and decorum with our tweens and teens and thinking about it pretty much not at all with our little kids.

So there's the conundrum.

Philosophically, I hate the very idea of addressing this with my little kids. But, practically, this is the world we live in, for better and worse. So, we do address the concept of modesty with kids earlier than I think we should probably have to.

I've got a blog post on that:

Kids and Modesty or, How I Got My Kids to Quit Getting Naked in the Yard

but here's the short version:

If you're in diapers, there are no rules. Nakey anywhere anytime. Once kids are in undies, we start having rules about changing in private areas of the house, rather than public ones. The same rules apply to both boys and girls. We focus on dressing appropriately for the occasion. The girls wear bloomers and camisoles in case they want to turn somersaults or forget to sit like a lady.

I think having some idea of the concept of modesty, but not a huge focus on it in the early years, creates a framework that we can build on later when modesty really is important.

As for brothers and sisters, I actually think getting to be familiar with the human body in a non sexual, no big deal way is a blessing for kids in a family of boys and girls. My big kids all change the babies' diapers and help little siblings dress, and so they all just naturally know how boys and girls are different. I never realized what a benefit it was until a friend with only daughters mentioned how crazy curious her girls were.  They had heard that boys were different somehow but with no brothers around, they had never been able to see exactly HOW they were different!

Practically, after about age seven or so (the traditional "age of reason" in the Church) we don't have them bathe or change with siblings of the opposite sex who are older than they are. But a four year old boy in our house can bathe with his sisters. And I'm okay with occasional naked river crossings, but only if the bridge is out. ;) We have guidelines for bathing and changing, but not sleeping. My kids do sometimes sleep in the same room, or even in the same bed as a brother or sister . . . that doesn't seem weird to us.

I'm just following in the footsteps of my mothering hero, The Country Bunny.

So, that's how we do it.

Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, nor am I an official spokesperson for the Catholic Church. (You're thinking of this guy.) If you read anything on this blog that is contrary to Church teaching, please consider it my error (and let me know!). I'm not a doctor or an expert on anything in particular. I'm just one person with a lot of experience parenting little kids and a desire to share my joy in marriage, mothering, and my faith.

If you've got a question, please send it along to catholicallyear @ gmail . com . Please let me know if you prefer that I change your name if I use your question on the blog.

p.s. I am WAY behind on my mailbag. Like, a month behind. Maybe two. Between keeping up the blog, writing for Blessed is She (about the devil), the printables and custom work at the Etsy shop, the mugs and t-shirts and pint glasses at the Cafepress shop, the fixing up of the house we bought, and the general care, feeding, and education of my children . . . I am fresh out of time to respond to emails. But if you wrote to me to ask a question, please know that I got it. I read it. I composed an answer to you in my head. But I haven't typed it up yet. It is my sincere intention to do so sometime in the near future.


Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Beginner's Guide to Dissent: the extended version

Disagreement with Catholic teaching is something that saints and heretics have in common. The great St. Paul himself, we read about in today's first reading, was a dissenter and debater. But the difference between the saints and the heretics has always been in how they've gone about dissenting.

I'm at Blessed is She today, discussing today's readings through the lens of Catholic dissent. But, as per usual, I had a lot to say on the subject. One of the beautiful parts of the Blessed is She devotions is that they're short and sweet. SO, I put the first, more-theoretical half over there, and I'm putting the second, more-practical half over here.

Read this part first, then come right back.

At every step, St. Paul was agitating for change via prayer, study, and intellectual argument, rather than through disobedience, sedition, and personal sin. He didn’t claim that his conscience dictated that he should do as he pleased, and encourage others to do so. He didn’t claim that since not eating shellfish was super hard for him, HE shouldn’t have to do it.

He knew that we are one body, with one set of teaching applicable to all. What he hoped to change was a changeable matter of Church practice, rather than an infallible teaching on a matter of faith or morals. Since he understood that some within the Church were teaching in error, he set out to correct that error, while maintaining his obedience to the pope.

What St. Paul did not do was rabble-rouse. He didn’t incite those around him to sin and rebellion. He wanted to create peace, not division, and correct, rather than exacerbate, the discord within the Church, “some of our number who went out without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind” (Acts 15:24).

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that most modern Catholic “dissent” doesn't really live up to the term. Most modern Catholic “dissent” is just willful disobedience or lazy ignorance.

Let’s avoid that. Let’s dissent like St. Paul.

I’m what folks call a “revert.” I was baptized as an infant and raised Catholic, but without much formation. My whole family and I have been on a journey towards faithful Catholic life together. On that journey, I have encountered plenty of Catholic teaching that seemed crazy, or hard, or wrong.

There were definitely times on my journey in which I disagreed with Church teaching without understanding the whys behind that teaching. There are certainly instances throughout Church history when good faithful Catholics have mindfully and respectfully agitated for meaningful change.  But there's been a lot MORE willful ignorance and petulant disobedience. I was in the latter camp for sure. And it was NOT satisfying.

What HAS been both enlightening and satisfying is a different approach.

NOW, if I'm confused by or in disagreement with a with a teaching of the Church, here’s what I do:
Step 1: Pray about it. I ask God to help me understand that teaching.

Step 2: Keep it quiet. I ponder it in my heart, not on a soapbox. There is no sin in not understanding or in questioning. There is sin in creating scandal and leading others away from the Church. Respectful, scholarly debate with knowledgeable, faithful Catholics is one thing. Finding a bunch of people to pat me on the back as I disagree is another.

Step 3: Learn about it. I research the issue. I read the Bible and the Catechism, and the words of the saints. I consult my elders by reading faithful Catholic blogs and talking with faithful Catholic priests and trusted Catholic friends.

Step 4: Think, rather than act. I can disagree with a teaching of the Church without disobeying it. I can think Catholics have it all wrong on something, I can determine that it isn’t an infallible teaching on faith and morals, I can pray about it and read about it, I can write about it and debate it over the proper channels. I can try to get it changed, all the while without disobeying.
But I gotta say, in all my experience, I’ve never made it past Step 3. Some great saints have. Important policies and positions within the Church have been changed. We have St. Paul to thank for a Church that’s approachable for people from all over the world, and for a holy example of both dissent and obedience; a life spent going from place to place, “strengthening the churches” (Acts 15:41).


And, hey, there's a new link up in town. Rosie from A Blog for My Mom is hosting an ALL NEW weekly link up called My Sunday Best, to replace another similar link up that had sort of run its course. If you've got a blog and you wore something to church today, link it up and share it with the world!

Sooooo, here we are. At Mass this morning, Mary Jane decided to try that thing from the movies where you yank the strand of pearls and they snap, sending pearls cascading towards the marble floor in slow motion, noisily skittering about, being chased by brothers. Consequently, Lulu's accessory game is way better than mine.

And here are a couple from yesterday. You'll never guess where we went . . .

And, have you see these cute free downloadable coloring pages from Nancy at Do Small Things With Love? SO cute. Print out these babies and preschool is taken care of!

Happy Feast of St. Joseph the Worker! This print is in the shop, if you're looking for a quick decoration . . .

Happy Sunday all. And happy dissenting . . .